Football's win affects more than just athletics
By Jonathan Bym Managing Editor
September 12, 2013
|Photo by Emily Thacker
The newly organized BraveNation student fan club cheers on the football team. The section was on its feet for most of the game, changing the game atmosphere from past years.
As the UNCP offense got into the victory formation with 37 seconds left in the game and took a knee, the Black and Gold portion of the 7,949 fans inside Grace P. Johnson Stadium stood up to cheer and celebrate along with the players on the sidelines after what is being named one of the biggest wins in UNCP football history.
In the program’s short seven-year history, this may be the biggest. The Braves have never faced an opponent as highly ranked as Winston-Salem State was coming into the Sept. 5 matchup.
UNCP came in 2-5 versus top 25 teams, with three of those coming to the Rams.
Head Coach Pete Shinnick said that this game is up there with some of the top home wins of his career. One in particular was the 22-21 win over Jacksonville in the program’s second season after being defeated 55-10 in its inaugural year.
The win also proved big dividends in the national polls as the Braves jumped up to 23rd while WSSU fell 15 spots to 20th.
Veteran players like Luke Charles and Fred Williams said that the win was one of the best games they have been a part of.
“This might be the best win of my career,” Charles said after the game with a huge smile.
Like Charles, Williams said that the game is one of the top contests he has ever played in and was at a loss for words because of his excitement.
Players and coaches alike all agreed that the fans played a crucial role in this big win.
“I couldn’t ask for better crowd support, couldn’t ask for a better venue to play in. I thought our fans were electric, and our student body was electric,” Shinnick said.
“I did not expect it to be that hype or that crazy,” Charles said. “In my five years here, I have never seen anything this big.”
The crowd, which out grossed the previous record of over 6,800 by 1,000 , was not kept away by the fact that athletic department officials announced the game was standing room only earlier in the week.
It was literally a perfect storm for the game.
A weeknight so most of the campus was there, a big time opponent that travels well and the attention of a national TV broadcast of the game all drew people in.
“It was a great atmosphere and I felt like the community came together,” UNCP student Mason Mullins said. “It may be one of the top athletic games in Pembroke history.”
This game raised UNCP to a platform that the university has never had before. Director of Athletics Dick Christy explained that the game is basically a 3-½ hour commercial for the school.
“The game was one of those perfect storms. The community was involved and it helped the team out,” Christy said of the game. “The crowd really fed the team, and that’s what you want from a home game.”
With a big game like this, everyone associated with the university seemed to take notice, even the top of the university.
Chancellor Kyle R. Carter, who is very active at attending athletic events, was very impressed and excited with the win.
This is our biggest football win ever. Whenever you defeat a team that played for the national championship, it demonstrates the quality of your program, players and coaches. The victory is something that all members of the university community can share,” Dr. Carter said.
“I was nervous throughout the game. I lived and died on every snap. I wanted this win for the players and university so badly because they, and we, deserved it,” he said.
Dr. Carter also went through the stands during the first and second quarters and was very impressed with the size of the crowd and the intensity showed by the student section and band.
The win was a big victory for the Braves and to do it on a national level lifts up the university as a whole.
Christy said in his first press conference that athletics is the front porch of the university and all parts of the university should expect benefits from the game.
All in all, the game can basically be summed up to what coach Shinnick said in the press conference following the game: “What a great night for UNCP.”